IF you see plumes of white smoke billowing out the Goolugatup Heathcote Gallery tonight, don’t worry, it’s not on fire.
It’s actually an art installation by Freo’s Tom Mùller, who specialises in dramatic sound and steam works, duping locals into thinking they are on the set of John Carpenter’s The Fog.
Adding to the mysterious vibe at the Applecross Gallery will be live avant-garde music as the sun begins to set.
It’s all part of opening night at Melville Contemporary, a lucrative exhibition for experimental art, where Mùller and five other WA finalists – Akira Akira, Dan Bourke, Jess Day, Natsumi de Dianous and Mei Saraswati – will unveil their creations to the public.
The ‘ethical’ competition awards each finalist a $3000 commission to create an artwork, and the winner gets another $3000 and a solo exhibition at the Heathcote Gallery.
This year, artists have embraced a wide variety of mediums including sound, movement, painting, digital media and sculpture.
Perth-based finalist Natsumi de Dianous, who likes to create art using metalwork and jewellery, says her entry was partly inspired by hair pieces.
“I’ve been inspired lately by objects and accessories such as hair pieces and their forms, acting as windows where layered patterns and shapes are embedded to create spaces for open ended and often subjective narrative,” she says.
“I’m interested in the potential for these works to be imbued with their own living essences and I am fascinated by the techniques – particularly ones involving an investment of time, repetition and care – that can bring about this circumstance.
“For the works in this exhibition I have used materials such as copper, oil on paper, canvas and thread. Paper has been pasted onto canvas, with the edge of the canvas stitched with thread, creating a wobbly border. I was drawn to the slippery texture and interaction of the paint on the paper surface.”
De Dianous says she’s been working on her entry for the past five months and is influenced by artists like Narumi Nekpenekpen, Faye Wei Wei and Toshimaru Uehara.
With a whopping $20,000 prize pool and generous commissions, Goolugatup Heathcote senior curator Jana Braddock says the competition is ethical and encourages artists to take risks.
“In all my years working in this field I have never seen a prize quite like Melville Contemporary. It may just be the most ethical and supportive art prize in Australia,” she says.
“Through supporting artists with ethical commission fees and curatorial assistance, we are encouraging them to push their practice and create exceptional new exploratory work.”
Finalist and musician Mei Saraswati will be busy on opening night – she’s unveiling her interactive sound work in the Gallery and also performing at Goolugatup Sounds, a live music event held alongside the exhibition (the Erasers and DJ Yira are also on the bill).
Known for her ambient soundscapes that blend electronica, field recordings and soulful vocals, Saraswati has built up a loyal following on Bandcamp and has collaborated with Savoir, Oisima and Mathas.
She also contributed to the Cool Pool compilation, which brought together Perth’s finest electronic artists to celebrate and protect the biodiversity of Beeliar Wetlands.
The winner of Melville Contemporary will be announced on opening night (4pm-8pm Saturday September 23) at Goolugatup Heathcote Gallery, 58 Duncraig Road Applecross. The exhibition runs until October 22.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK